The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh (1977)

I really, really want to be objective about this film.  I want to write about the pros and cons of the animation, the adaptation of A.A. Milne’s original work, and my overall view of this movie as an adult.

I want to, but I don’t know that I can.  This movie was such a major part of my childhood, and one that I hold so dear to my heart that I don’t know that I can address it without the rose-colored glasses of youth. I’m willing to try, but I may fail miserably.

The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh tells stories of that famous silly old bear, Pooh, as he has adventures with his friends in the Hundred Acre Wood.  Pooh searches for honey, hunts hephalumps, and escapes rising floodwaters, all with his typical pooh-bear panache.

The film, like many earlier Disney films, is not comprised of a single continuous story, but rather a series of self-contained vignettes, short stories played out on film that are brief enough to hold a young viewer’s attention.  The plot of each story is generally fairly simple, with Pooh and his friends getting into hijinks around the forest.

The stories are sweet and basic, but they’re not what makes this film so long-lasting.  It’s the characters themselves which hold that distinction.  A.A. Milne’s original works were published 90 years ago, and yet these characters are as major a part of childhood now as they ever were.  Quite frankly, it’s because they’re all rather basic character tropes, each representing an emotion  we all feel at one time or another.

There’s Piglet, the timid, scared character who must overcome his many fears in order to do what’s needed of him.  Eeyore, the consistently morose donkey who always views the glass as half empty and never can seem to crack a smile.  Then there’s Rabbit, the short-tempered, pragmatic bunny who views hard work as far more important that goofing around.  And of course we can’t forget Tigger, the over-hyper, bouncy tiger who causes chaos wherever he goes, even though he means well.

And then there’s the star: Winnie the Pooh himself.  Pooh bear is my personal favorite, and a character who seems to represent the most innocent side of childhood.  He always takes everything at face value, and approaches the world with a childlike wonder that to this day still amazes me.  He has plenty of little songs and sayings that make him instantly recognizable, and one can’t help but laugh whenever he winds up in one predicament or another (usually while on a quest for honey).

You know, like when he disguises himself as a rain cloud so he can get some honey without the bees getting suspicious.

It’s an incredibly sweet, albeit flawed, idea, and one that could easily be thought up by a child.  Mostly, because they were supposed to be thought up that way.

Christopher Robin is the secret star of the film, as all of these stories are meant to be in his imagination.  Long before Toy Story gave us the idea of a world where toys that come to life, we were given The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh.  Though not quite identical, the concepts in each film are similar, emphasizing the strength of a child’s imagination to create a full world in which these toys actually seem alive. Christopher Robin, though a child himself, is viewed as the voice of reason in this film, correcting his friends on their assumptions and teaching them a little about the world, even as they help him cling to his own childhood innocence.

While the vignettes featured here are too short to ever allow the viewer to become too invested in each story, I do favor the way in which they’re framed.  Unlike other stories, Pooh makes use of its storybook origin as a backdrop for the film, with the characters well aware that they are in a book.

On a windy day, the words on the page blow past Pooh Bear.  In another scene, a deluge of rain washes away an entire paragraph. It’s not the focal point of the film, but stylistically it’s a beautiful choice. Not only does it hearken back to the origin of the characters, it also provides a backdrop on which to place the stories. Pooh interacts with the narrator while traversing the pages of the book, providing a tidy introduction and conclusion to otherwise open-ended stories.

This film was a huge part of my childhood, and even as an adult I found myself wanting to sing along to the many tunes featured here.  Viewing the movie transported me back to my early years, transfixed in front of the tv as these scenes played out before me.  I may have lost a bit of the innocence I once had, but watching this film, even now, brings back a faint glimmer of that feeling, of viewing the world as a child and exploring all the wonders it has to offer.  Yes, this film makes me sentimental and nostalgic, but is that so bad?  I’m happy to have so many fond memories of this film, and having watched it again only makes me more certain that I want to share these stories with my own future children.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some rumblies in my tumbly.  It’s time for a small smackeral or two.

-Jess

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